Patients and families tell Healthwatch Suffolk communication within our hospitals is not good enough

Healthwatch Suffolk says communication is poor in local hospitals. Picture: PETER BYRNE/PA

Healthwatch Suffolk says communication is poor in local hospitals. Picture: PETER BYRNE/PA - Credit: PA

Poor communication within hospitals is causing Suffolk patients and their families unnecessary stress and is affecting care provided, a watchdog has found.

Healthwatch Suffolk chief executive Andy Yacoub. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Healthwatch Suffolk chief executive Andy Yacoub. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Archant

Healthwatch Suffolk has received complaints that hospital staff are failing to keep GPs up-to-date with information about patients’ health; are not talking to colleagues in other departments about patients’ care and are at times unfamiliar with their notes; and do not always know where patients are in the hospital.

The three main hospitals the organisation works with are Ipswich, West Suffolk and James Paget.

One patient told Healthwatch Suffolk the cardiac consultant leading their appointment had not been informed they had suffered a stroke.

While a relative of a patient reported: “As a family it felt that we had to monitor all aspects of the care on the ward as information was not passed on to new shifts.

“My father had a procedure carried out but we had to wait until 9pm for a doctor to explain what had been done and why, which was eight hours after the procedure was done.

“We never felt fully confident that everything was being addressed and certain things happened that were identified by family rather than staff on the ward.”

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Another said their mother had eaten food she was allergic to on two occasions while in hospital, even though staff were aware of her allergies.

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: “Communication between the many health care providers we rely on is understandably complicated, but patients and carers tell us that poor communication causes unnecessary and more often than not avoidable problems.

“We have been told that poor communication within our local hospitals is a problem and that it has impacted on the care that they, or a family member, have received from local services. We know that many people experience good care but it is clear that some feel their visit to hospital could have been less stressful had communication been better.”

Healthwatch Suffolk gains feedback from members of the public about their experiences of local health and social care and feeds that back to providers in order to improve and develop services.

Julia Hunt, director of nursing at James Paget, said the hospital had a number of initiatives to help facilitate communication, including specialist dementia and learning disability nurses, and staff and patient surveys.

But she added: “We acknowledge that this is an area that needs continued work to ensure we as an organisation, and as individuals, communicate effectively.”

Rowan Procter, executive chief nurse at West Suffolk, welcomed the comments.

“It’s really important that we receive feedback and understand issues that are raised,” she added.

“We strive to deliver high quality and safe care and are always looking at ways we can improve and ensure best practice is achieved.”

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said: “This feedback from Healthwatch Suffolk is really important.

“We do work very closely with our GP colleagues in the community and with patients representatives and with Healthwatch Suffolk to learn how we can improve on getting communications right every time.

“We do recognise that there is always much we can learn and ask anyone who has any feedback for us to let us know ideally at the time so we can put it right.”